Articles by Brian Jackson
Better Living through Chemistry
21 June 2014
Dr. Paul Richardson, arguably the most important chemist in more than a century, flopped onto an ugly sofa in his cramped apartment at six o'clock in the evening. He fidgeted with his honor society ring, sliding it back and forth with his thumb on a bony ring finger like he was a skinny college undergraduate again.
Paul sat up, snatching the remote control and a narrow envelope and from the coffee table.
Ungracefully, he tore the envelope open with an index finger and took its contents in both hands: a light blue check with the seal of the "Balanced Life" brand. He dwelt on the raised seal and watermark with his fingertips, ignoring the amount typewritten across the line, just short of two million dollars.
Six months ago, his research at Balanced Life had come to fruition. How proud he'd been! He got to take the stage personally, a real honest-to-God researcher, not some marketing figurehead with a blinding smile and bleached hair - and he'd hefted a mock-up of the product they'd made from his discovery above his head and deemed it a "New Years' Resolution in a Bottle!"
Government initiatives and the support of a few celebrity cause-chasers had pushed his miracle drug through testing and review in half the time it usually took, with the end result being both a commercial success and the career move of a lifetime.
Paul absently reached for the remote and turned on the television. The national news, with its gaunt anchorman mid-sentence on some story about overseas deployment numbers.
"Nyrbitol" (the marketing execs had loved his impassioned press conference) was the holy grail of popular health: a truly powerful diet pill. In three weeks, a pudgy forty-something could be back to what they weighed out of high school - sold in gel capsules at prescription strength, or in powders for people who just wanted to trim their waistlines a few inches. Production ramped up as the overweight American population learned to love sprinkling the grass-colored product over their morning cereal, and the same news anchors that were on the television had heralded the end of the middle age spread.
Paul's eyes flicked up from the check to the television story. An embedded journalist was resting a rail-thin arm on a tall crate marked NYRB-52 as the uniformed military crew prepared to load it onto a plane. Footage of similar planes spraying green clouds over foreign farms and cities played, narrated by the correspondent's report. When he'd finished, the anchor returned to the screen. His eyes were sunken, yellowed.
Paul sighed a tiny sigh, produced a retractable pen from his shirt pocket, and endorsed the check, adding "for deposit only." He sat back into the sofa and clicked the pen closed with a skeletal hand.Tweet
Didn't I see that stuff on Dr Oz?
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